A guide for implementing
accounting system or ERP solution
By J. Carlton Collins, CPA
The PPC Guide to
Installing Microcomputer Accounting Systems
By J. Carlton Collins, CPA
HISTORY OF THE GUIDE
In 1991 I authored a 1,000-page book titled "Guide to Installing Microcomputer Accounting
Systems" which is published by Practitioner Publishing Company (PPC) out of Fort Worth, Texas. Here is brief history of how
this book came to exist. From 1987 until 1992 I was the President of the PC Consultant's Group of Atlanta, an organization
that met monthly at the Georgia Society of CPA offices to discuss technology. The group consisted mostly of accounting software
installers and therefore the topic of selecting and installing accounting software packages was a frequent focus of our meetings.
Over that five-year period I arranged for dozens of interesting speakers and took careful notes. By 1990, I had accumulated
over 230 tips (70+ pages) for conducting an accounting system installation engagement. I even delivered a couple of
lectures on that topic - including the 1990 AICPA Microcomputer Conference.
My former colleague, Will Fleenor had a contact who worked for Practitioner Publishing
Company and Will sent him a copy of my 70+ pages of materials. PPC was interested and Will handled most all of the contractual
arrangements. From there, we started work with our editor - Lloyd Howlett of PPC to develop an outline for the book. I began
writing and churning out the first draft of the book. Will then took my work and did a wonderful job word-smithing my first
draft and adding additional content here and there. Lloyd was a master at organizing the book - he had a great eye for
moving the content around and laying it out in a logical manner. From Lloyd's hands, I would then re-work the material, followed
by Will, and then by Lloyd again. My other partners, Val Steed, Bob Radding and later Randy Johnston, also contributed some
content to the Guide on the topics of local area networking, Macintosh accounting, and other assorted topics. Finally, the
PPC folks applied the finishing touches and the first edition of the Guide was released.
I can tell you that this Guide was very difficult to write. On some days the content
flowed like a raging river. On other days I suffered severe writer's block in which hours of sitting in front of my word-processor
yielded only the slightest trickle of results. Writing about the stuff I knew about was the easiest - however PPC laid down
some rather heavy demands in terms developing work plans. To this day I still think the work plans are rather ineffective
because each engagement is so different. I favored a broader, more general work plan while PPC favored a very detailed
work plan. It is tough to create one work plan that fits all situations. ( PPC still thinks that the work plans are a main
key to the Guide). Unlike generating a tax return, you can't just turn on the faucet and have content flow out - creative
writing doesn't work that way.
The end result is a very good book which I am proud to be a part of. Today the book
is used by thousands of consultants. We have received hundreds of compliments over the years and being the lead author of
this Guide has opened many doors for me. For a couple of years I continued to review the Guide extensively - one year I meticulously
word-smithed every single sentence. Over the years, we have received suggestions from hundreds of users, many ideas of which
have been incorporated into the Guide. By 1994, I had poured by heart and sole into the Guide and at that point in time had
no more to offer. Therefore I withdrew from the role of updating the Guide on an annual basis and as a result I no longer
receive a royalty from sales of the Guide. Still I highly recommend the Guide - especially Volume I which outlines a proven
approach for conducting an implementation engagement step-by-step, and documenting the progress along the way. Most importantly,
Volume I provides more than 70 practice aides (engagement letters, training exercises, pricing schedules, etc) which can help
you conduct an engagement more efficiently and yield higher profits. The key to a profitable engagement is for you to assume
the role of quarterback, and delegate the many tasks to be performed to the client's staff. The practice aides make it quick
and easy to delegate these tasks.
In 1998 I met with PPC personnel and outlined a lengthy list of much needed improvements
to the guide in the areas of industry solutions, Windows content, remote access considerations, customization, e-commerce,
electronic funds, contact management, and much more. Even the title which refers to microcomputers is outdated - (for the
record, I was against this title all along - instead I favored the "Guide to Installing Accounting Software"). Unfortunately,
these improvements have never been made - volume I of the book exists largely as I wrote it in 1991. The main problem is that
PPC relies heavily on annual book renewals. For example, I understand that their tax, compilation, and review guides have
renewal rates close to 95%. However, the Guide to Installing Microcomputer Accounting Systems outlines a fundamental approach
that does not change dramatically from year to year, therefore purchasers of the guide are not compelled to reorder the latest
edition each year. PPC has resorted to printing some table information provided by Charles Chewning in Volume II in an effort
to get people to renew the Guide each year, and I think that this approach has worked OK for both Charles and PPC.
Despite my somewhat negative comments above, I want to point out that I think PPC is
an excellent organization that produces excellent reference materials for professionals. The fact that readers do not feel
compelled to upgrade their copy of the Guide each year is the primary reason that PPC and myself have not made more efforts
to add additional content to the Guide.
ABOUT THE GUIDE
The Guide is a 1,000-page, two-volume guide that walks
the installer through the process of installing an accounting software system. Volume I features the following chapters:
1. Introduction to Installing Accounting
2. Getting Started (key steps to
becoming an installer)
4. Planning the Engagement
5. Performing the Needs Analysis
6. Selecting the Appropriate Software
7. Installing the Accounting System
8. Concluding the Engagement
9. Windows and Macintosh Considerations
10. Local Area Network Considerations
The Guide features practical guidance and several hundred
pages of ready-to-use practice aides to assist in conducting a smooth and successful installation engagement. Volume II features
thirteen Chapters which discuss various high-end accounting software systems.
Now in it's Seventh edition, the Guide to Installing
Microcomputer Accounting Systems is published and sold by Practitioners Publishing Company of Fort Worth, Texas and I
understand that it has sold over 5,000 copies. Today, thousands of installers across the United States and several "Big Five"
CPA firms rely on the Guide for conducting their installation engagements. The book has emerged to become the leading reference
material pertaining to the scope of installing accounting software. You can obtain the Guide for $149 from Practitioners Publishing Company.